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ACC coaches, UVA recruits wonder what fans are missing on Kihei Clark

kihei clark duke virginia
Kihei Clark had a career-high 25 points in Virginia’s 65-61 loss to Duke. Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

Absolutely loved the column by my colleague Jerry Ratcliffe in which he got comments from two ACC coaches questioning the sanity of the Virginia Basketball fan base.

We try to be nice by saying the vast majority of UVA hoops fans aren’t mouth-breathers and knuckle-draggers who actively hate Kihei Clark, but truth is, the idiots are legion.

The news that he was coming back for a COVID redshirt season should have been great news, as in, hey, we’re getting a four-year starting point guard who won a national championship as a freshman back to help run the team.

Isaac McKneely’s high school coach, Allen Osborne, told us on a “Jerry Ratcliffe Show” interview last week that McKneely was excited when he heard that Clark was coming back, that his reaction was, “We’re going to the NCAA Tournament next year.”

One of the reasons the Kih-aters cite for not wanting him back is that it would hinder McKneely’s development.


Another: that opposing coaches are looking forward to one more chance to game-plan against the tiny point guard who is a defensive liability, can’t shoot and turns the ball over way, way too much.

“You look at his statistics, plays 36 minutes a game, averages 10 points, 38 percent from 3, 70.8 percent from the foul line. Four and a half assists and a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio. I don’t know if you get a lot better point guards than that,” Miami coach Jim Larrañaga told Ratcliffe.

“If Virginia fans don’t like Kihei, then when we play [UVA], I’m happy to put a Georgia Tech jersey on him,” Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “I have great respect for Virginia fans, a great fan base, however, for anyone that wouldn’t want Kihei back, that’s just irrational.

“I don’t think Tony Bennett needs any help in putting his teams together,” Pastner said. “As long as he doesn’t fall off a cliff, Tony’s going to be in the Hall of Fame one day. I think he knows what he’s doing, and I’m sure he would tell you how excited he was when Kihei told him he’s coming back.”

Virginia fans don’t want to hear Mike Krzyzewski cited as an authority, but you might remember Coach K stopping Clark in the handshake line after Duke’s 65-61 win in JPJ in February, after Clark had scored 25 points and dished out seven assists.

“Clark had a heck of a game. He’s as good of a guard as there is in the league. The shooting performance he put on in that first half – we had to change our defense,” Krzyzewski said, who had to adjust his scheme to switch on screens to make sure that Clark, who drained six first-half threes, didn’t have daylight from behind the arc.

Clark adjusted well. After a first half with six threes, he was a playmaker in the second half, with seven points and five assists, getting Jayden Gardner, who had just two points at the half, but took advantage of the openings in the lane to score 14 in the second half, involved in a big way.

But that’s only Coach K saying nice things. That guy’s only won five national titles, three gold medals.

Larrañaga, who took George Mason to a Final Four, led Miami to an ACC title in 2013 and the Elite Eight this past March, doesn’t know much either.

So it means nothing that Larrañaga thinks this about what Clark’s return means for Virginia.

“With their top six guys coming back, Kihei getting an extra year, a good recruiting class and the Vander Plas kid transferring in, they’ve got one hell of a chance to win the ACC next year. Preseason, I’d say Carolina one, Virginia two. I would think people should be happy with that,” Larrañaga said.

But, but, but, Kihei is only 5’9” …

Story by Chris Graham

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